10 Pains You Will Inevitably Experience In Life

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You are an optimist. You wake up every single day trying to get the best out of life. You dream big to find meaning. You work hard to win accolades and respect.

Your optimism is commendable. But friend, life is full of inevitable painful surprises. And your lack of awareness of them means that when you do face them, your stability will be tested, your emotional control will be tested, and your outlook on the world ahead of you will be vulnerable to being seriously damaged.

But as you’ve heard it numerous times before, knowledge is power.

And so today, I want to share knowledge of 10 pains you will inevitably experience in life. Let’s plant them into your subconscious so that you can get back to pursuing a positive life in the context of reality.

The loss of someone you love

Fundamentally, our happiness lies in the relationships we keep. It’s in our nature. So, naturally, when we lose someone, it’s incredibly tough. Believe me, I know.

Context helps when this happens. And that’s why this is what I want you to do: while you still have loved ones alive and well today, come to understand that every day they are alive on this planet is an incredible miracle of nature. Truly understand— and I say this with respect — that each gifted day could be their last. Love them so much today that when they die, you will feel pride not regret, knowing that you were there for them as much as you wanted to be.

I know that this is difficult to think about. You may even think that only losers take their mind to such negative places. But know this: when you lose someone, your rationalized brain will find some logical explanation as to how the loss could have been prevented. In doing so, you may come to blame yourself or even other loved ones. These thoughts will take you down a path to significant pain and misery. They will develop pessimism and hate that will drag your life forever.

Seeing pain in the people you love

Death is not the only loss you will suffer regarding others.

People around you will fall from grace. They will fail miserably, or lose hope, or fall sick and get disabled. This again, is the nature of the existence on our planet. It is the summation of nature itself and then what we, as a society, contribute to it.

Seeing pain in others will hurt if you aren’t prepared for it. So my advice for you is that you build a strong character of your own before such days come so that you can be there for those who are hurting. Say this to yourself regularly so that you continue growing:

There will be a day when you, your friends, or family will desperately need your wisdom. Are you developing for this? — Ankur Patel, Ph.D.

What kind of wisdom am I talking about? Start learning about the pains people already suffer in the world. Learn about depression, multiple sclerosis, disability, alzheimer’s disease, and financial ruin. Listen to the world. Your loved ones aren’t miraculously immune from ever experiencing these things. How will you feel when that happens? How will you be there for them?

A hit to your pride

One thing is inevitable: you will fail at many things in life. You will not get that promotion, you will say devastating things to those you love, many of your ventures will fail, your marriage may also fail.

If you don’t develop a good perspective on who you are and how you look at failure, you will take them personally, and that’s when it hits your pride.

But understand this while things are good: failure is a part of life; it is not a glitch of life. If you are judged for your failures, you are listening to the wrong voices.

“If you don’t fail, you’re not even trying” — Denzel Washington

Regret

We have a terrible tendency to look back at our past, modify a few decisions that were made, and then fantasize a present outcome that would’ve been better. This is where the, “hindsight is always 20/20” comes from.

If you do not become better at controlling this mental hijackery, you will experience significant regret in life. Till this day I have millionaires give me a laundry list of regrets around the life decisions they made. For a while, I did it too. It’s a heavy load to carry in life. It affects your confidence and most certainly your happiness. So learn to control your thoughts, talk to yourself with meditation, go easy on yourself and live in the present.

Impatience

“Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day, But They Were Laying Bricks Every Hour” — John Heywood.

Gary Vaynerchuk beats this drum like no other when he is advising young professionals who want to succeed in life. So many people live painful lives because they want a specific kind of life now. We create these fantasies in our heads as previews of what could be and the surging dopamine in our brains drives us impatient if it doesn’t become reality soon.

There’s a massive focus on outcomes (Rome) and not enough of a focus on just process (bricking).

When your time-to-outcome is so short, your chances of not getting there are bigger; which means that your chances of despair are also bigger.

To make things worse, because failure is more likely when you are impatient, people tend to walk away from their heart’s desires entirely. I was coaching a young man this year and he told me, “I’ve always wanted to go to Medical School but I have decided not to; I am just too old! Others in my class would be 22–23”. He is 27 years old. Seriously?!

Life is super-long ya’ll! Do not fall for the impatience-trap. Celebrate that you have so much time to do so many things in life. Make a plan that is yours, that works at your pace and not someone else’s.

Envy

I know you’ll deny it, but envy is a difficult one to avoid. I always hear it, “man that guy is so lucky because all his life’s pieces just fell perfectly into place”. We constantly admire the success and happiness of others. And then it turns for the worse because we take their outcomes and demand it from ourselves and those around us. This will cause significant pain because the moment you try to take shortcuts in emulating the life of others, you’ll lose yourself. It will no longer be your journey. It will be someone else’s. Try living in that fantasy; it will only cause pain.

Focus on your own journey. If you like what others are doing, saying or acting on, get inspired by them but mold a path of your own.

“Compare yourself to who you were yesterday and not to who someone else is today.” — Jordan Peterson

Disappointment in others

A lot of your pains in life will come from the disappointment in other people. Look, people are complicated but when we look for agreement we forget that. When we want others to fall in line with our thinking, we are dumbfounded that they don’t see things as clearly as we do. So many people dropped their friends this year because they affiliated with the other political party. So many people stopped talking to their parents because they had outrageous views around COVID-19 or the US election. Disagreements will never go away and a world where you will just avoid half of it won’t improve our chances at peace.

Understand that not everyone got the intellectual grasp that you have on a particular topic. Understand that there are 100+ cognitive biases you may have fallen victim to in exercising disappointment in others. Understand that it is your job to learn, educate and collectively advance our world.

Animosity towards others

Disappointment sits on the lower end of the emotional reaction spectrum we have towards others while animosity sits on the upper end. Technology, unfortunately, allows confirmation bias in incredibly accessible ways. Sitting on a couch, I can find the commentary of 25 tweets by “official”, “popular” people that confirm what I already believed. With every tweet, you keep juicing that brain of yours with dopamine to enrage you against those who disappoint you.

Understand that people are complicated but they are not all evil. Take the responsibility to bring them into the fold and you’ll live a happier life.

And if you need more convincing, maybe Dave Chapelle can win you over:

Loss of direction

This, I believe is the product of our template-based cultures. Many of us are raised to make good grades, get into the best Universities, make good grades there too, and then pass the exams to get into medical school, or law school, or an engineering program, because those are the paths to a stable life.

“Make sure you have something to fall back on!” they tell us.

Eventually, but rather late, we realize that opportunities in (most) of the world are freer than the templates we were shown or self-discovered. And this is where you’ll sense a loss of direction.

So take it upon yourself to open your mind as to why it is that people tell you to go in a certain direction. Avoid the template life.

“Do what is meaningful, not expedient” — Jordan Peterson

Uncomfortable Situations

Comfort is the feeling when things are going the way we wanted them to. It’s as simple as that. Discomfort, on the other hand, is a fear-based feeling that arises when outcomes take a very different turn from the way we wanted them to.

But here’s the thing: so many outcomes in your life are a product of complex, variable, and chaotic reasons — most of which are not in your control. Take your job as an example. There are so many variables that contribute to you holding your job: the agenda of your CEO, the expectations of your Manager, the state of the economy, regulations, disruptive technologies, tax benefits and many more.

You yourself are a product of chaos so stop looking for comfort.

Final Word

In an incredibly ironic way, what makes us humans so special is that the pains we experience in life are the reason that our subsequent joys are so special. It’s just that we don’t see it that way when we are amidst the experience of pain.

Take care and I love you all.

And catch my other articles:

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Ankur Patel, Ph.D.

Ankur Patel, Ph.D.

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Neuroscientist I Write about Happiness, Fulfillment, Peace of Mind